Naming Rights

Over the summer I bought a couple dozen wooden tic-tac-toe games gathered small items, icons and images that seemed to go together around a theme.

I called them  “shrines”.  When the pieces went up on Etsy, someone messaged me to ask why I called them shrines.

Uh-oh.  I’m in the Bible-belt.  I recognize a challenge when I see it.  What right do I have to use a religious-ish word any old way I choose?  Or, maybe the word “shrine” has some evil or graven-image-like pall to it so that I was perhaps advocating Harry Potter worship of some kind. It was a question, I thought, designed to flush me out into sacrilege territory, where I’d be an easy victim of religious certainty.

I hit the dictionary to determine if I could back up my shrines as shrines in a literal sense.  Various dictionaries defined “shrine” as:

  • A place of religious devotion or commemoration; a place where devotion is paid to a deity, or where the bones of a venerated person are interred; a container for sacred relics; a site hallowed by association with a revered person or object.  Under this last meaning, Independence Hall qualifies as a shrine to American Liberty.  (American Heritage Dictionary)
  • A place that is connected with a holy event or a holy person; a place that people like to visit and respect because it is associated with a venerated person or event.  This definition means that it’s okay to call Graceland a shrine to Elvis.  (Longman Dictionary)
  • A place or object hallowed by its associations.  (Merriam Webster)

So, at this point, I was satisfied that the word “shrine” could be used to describe something other than religion.  If it’s a good enough word for Independence Hall and Graceland, its good enough for me.  But, the definitions raised other questions about the appropriateness of my nomenclature.  What does it mean to “venerate” someone or something?  Is that the same as worshipping someone?  That would spit me right back out into sacrilege territory again.

And, what does it take for a place or person to be “commemorated” or “hallowed”?  Is this a decision to be made unilaterally by, say an artist, or does it require some sort of group action?  My head was spinning.  Had I misnamed my artwork?

Then, in an I-could-have-had-a-V8 moment, I realized it was my artwork.  And here is the rule for naming my artwork:  I get to call my pieces any damn thing I want.  Problem solved.



What to Do and Not Do at a Craft Festival

I’m no longer a craft show virgin.  I did my first show last weekend in Nashville.  Most of this week has been recuperative.  There is a lot of physical work involved in doing a show.  Everything has to be priced and labeled and packed up, then brought to the festival, unpacked, and displayed.  Then there’s the money thing – you must have money to make change and you must have money to each crappy festival food because you forgot to pack something healthy. 

It was freezing cold and rainy on Saturday and hardly anyone showed for the festival.  We vendors – troopers that we are — trolled each other’s booths in between rain showers and complained about how our hands were too cold to work properly.  Sunday was better, but by then we were all worn out from Saturday.

For all those festival goers out there, I have a few tips for booth etiquette:

*Never look over an artist’s wares and state, “You have too much time on your hands.”

*Never tell a collage artist that you and your mother used to decopauge stuff when you were a kid.

*Never congratulate an artist for having figured out a useful purpose for Guatamalan Worry Dolls (or any other small and colorful item the artist scoured the internet and flea markets to find.)

 *When examining carefully altered tins, never say, “Are these Altoids tins?”

*Never tell an artist who was proud of finding a lot of genuine cigar boxes for a really good price that you recall with you could get cigar boxes for free.

*Never ask an artist if she can re-cut a picture frame to make a light switch plate.


Lest I give the impression that the festival was not a positive experience, here is some advice about what to do at a festival:

*Do ask the artist if there’s a story behind a piece.

*Do tell an artist that her art is like a treasure hunt because you’re always finding something new hidden in a piece.

*If you’re a kid, do ask an artist if you could do art like that.  They will love giving you hints and incouragement.

*Do engage the artist in conversations about the artistic and creative process.  Get their card. E-mail them or call them after the festival and make a new friend.

*If you are another vendor, do quietly offer the newbie advice about interacting with potential customers.

*Do tell an artist she does great work, even if you’re not going to buy a thing.  It’s amazing how much compliments are valued by artists!

So, as all you artists get ready for the holiday season – and the endless parade of craft and arts festivals that go with it – may your weather be fair and your customers polite!